Thursday, 25 June 2009


Flushed by two recent consumer-action successes, which led Mrs Blackpool Tower to call me "The Male Esther Rantzen" (she meant it as a compliment), I humbly submit my...

Top Tips for Complainin'

* Don't be an arsehole. They're human too. Cliched but true.

* Be Honest. It's a tiresome old process, so you need a bit of righteous indignation to sustain you. That won't be possible if your indignation is fake. Consumer Action for Fun and Profit isn't my idea of a good time, which is why I only make a fuss if I feel genuinely aggrieved.

* Have an Objective. An aimless rant only gets you so far, but if you have firmly in mind what you think is appropriate redress, you'll be far likelier to get it.

* Be Professional. If your complaint becomes a row, you've probably fucked it up. The more emotional you get, the easier it is to dismiss you as a nutter. Taking it personally makes it impossible to objectify the situation (see below). 

* Write stuff down. Have specifics. A printed document laying out your experience of the company will scare the crap out of most employees, because they can imagine it in the hands of their boss.

* Make your complaint about you, not about them. It's not a personal attack. The last thing you want to do is make them defensive and embattled. Remember you're trying to move them towards giving you what you want. Keep your language un-aggressive, and focus mainly on how you feel. If your whole argument rests on "you did this, then he said that, really rudely, yeah?" all you'll get is a debate about who said what. Remember that you're a valued customer and tell them how you're feeling: "I was told that it wouldn't be delivered on time, which made me feel frustrated and angry, and not like you wanted my business". Hard to refute, and all about your status as a customer.

* Talk about recommendation. Remind them that you're one customer but can deliver others

* Make it easy for them. Invite them to take the opportunity to turn you back into a happy customer and advocate.

* Use their vocabulary. If their website says something like "Hey guys, talk to us! We want to know what you think" then tell them, and remind them that they asked in the first place.

* Be a good winner. Say thanks when you win.

There. Easy.

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